Harry Benson CBE, an exhibition

We’re pleased to hear that Glasgow-born photojournalist Harry Benson CBE, and Honorary Patron of Document Scotland, is having an exhibition at the Scottish Parliament later this year. The press release from Holyrood, reproduced below, tells all…

The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick, with Harry Benson CBE.

The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick, with Harry Benson CBE.

 

An exhibition featuring the work of one of the world’s most renowned photographers, Harry Benson CBE, is to go on display at the Scottish Parliament in August.

The free exhibition, Harry Benson: Seeing America, will include some of the photographer’s most iconic images capturing significant moments in America’s social, political and cultural history over the last 50 years.

Harry Benson’s credentials on photographing American history are unrivalled. Glasgow-born Benson essentially arrived in America with the Beatles and went on to photograph every US President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. Benson was present during Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and teargassed during the James Meredith March with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. He started by covering America for the Daily Express and by 1968, was fulfilling his ambition of working for Life magazine.

 

Cassius Clay hits George Harrison of The Beatles,- copyright Harry Benson 1964.

Cassius Clay hits George Harrison of The Beatles,- copyright Harry Benson 1964.

 

This new exhibition will bring together many of his well-known images including the photograph of President and Mrs Reagan dancing, which featured on the cover of Vanity Fair, images documenting the civil rights movement and tensions in 1960s America, the Watergate journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and Richard Nixon’s resignation speech. It will also feature many well-known American entertainers including Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Jack Nicholson, Dolly Parton, Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt.

The free exhibition will be on display at the Parliament from Friday 12 August until Saturday 3 December. It will be the first exhibition of Harry Benson’s work to go on display in Scotland since 2008.

Reagan's Dance, copyright Harry Benson 1985

Reagan’s Dance, copyright Harry Benson 1985

 

The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick, who announced the exhibition whilst she was in New York for Scotland Week, said: “Harry Benson’s work is admired across the world and he is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s greatest exports.

“This new exhibition is Harry’s unique take on America over the last 50 years and will feature some of his most iconic photographs.

“As the debate on the forthcoming US Presidential election intensifies, this exhibition shines a light on some of the defining moments of America’s past.

“This exhibition is a “must see” for anyone with an interest in American history, politics and culture.”

Glasgow-born, Harry has photographed some of the world’s biggest stars from The Beatles to Muhammad Ali over a career spanning 60 years.

Harry Benson CBE said: “Growing up in Glasgow, one year at the end of term when I had narrowly passed my qualifying exam to the next level, my teacher, Miss MacKenzie, stopped me as I shuffled out of the classroom and said, “Benson, I don’t worry about you one bit.” It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me. I wish I could have gone back years later to thank her.

“To have my retrospective, my American journey, at Parliament is an incredible privilege. My wife, Gigi, and my daughters, Wendy and Tessa, join me in thanking the Scottish Parliament for this truly remarkable honour.”

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The History Woman

Nicola Sturgeon meets with her dress makers  Totty Rocks before being voted in as Scotland's First Minister. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014, all rights reserved.

Nicola Sturgeon meets with her dress makers Totty Rocks before being voted in as Scotland’s First Minister. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

As the 2015 UK General Election campaign gathers pace, we are being bombarded by soundbites and overwhelmed by statistics whilst politicians appear on every television screen, newspaper and website we look at. There’s no getting away from politics, for the next couple of months, at least.

So we at Document Scotland are going to add to mix by showcasing work by Glasgow-based photographer Peter McNally, who has been granted unprecedented access to photograph one of the pivotal figures in the current contest for votes: Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

 

Nicola Sturgeon, on stage at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014, all rights reserved.

Nicola Sturgeon, on stage at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

The story starts during the Independence referendum campaign, when Peter was one of a small team of dedicated photographers working on behalf of the National Collective to document its campaigning activities as it sought to persuade Scots to vote Yes. Through this, Peter was able to make a visual record of the campaign, and in so doing, got close to the people making the news. Little did he know at the time, but his work was being noticed by the leaders of Yes Scotland and the SNP.

In the dramatic aftermath of the 18th September 2014 vote, Alex Salmond resigned and his then deputy, Nicola Sturgeon was elevated to the position of First Minister. This followed on directly from a nationwide tour which the party undertook, with Sturgeon speaking at packed venues and the party’s annual conference. By this time, Peter had already been contacted and offered the opportunity to photograph behind-the-scenes. It was a chance he grabbed gladly. As Peter explained: “The SNP tour was a first of its kind in Scottish and British politics and saw Nicola visit Edinburgh, Dumfries, Dundee, Inverness, Glasgow and Aberdeen whilst engaging directly with the public with a talk then an open question-and-answer session.” Shortly into the assignment Nicola Sturgeon became the SNP party leader at the party’s National Conference in Perth then soon after that, Scotland’s first female First Minister. Peter was on hand to capture it all.

Nicola Sturgeon waiting for an interview inside the BBC radio mobile studio. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014 all rights reserved.

Nicola Sturgeon waiting for an interview inside the BBC radio mobile studio. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

In terms of creating an archive of images from an historic moment, the SNP saw the value of what they were proposing through Peter’s work. As Peter noted: “The SNP team were interested in developing both an in-house style of photography they could have as a go-to resource and also a historic documentation that would act as a public record.” But there’s realpolitik involved too, according to Peter: “The project also fits in well with Nicola’s own vision of a more accessible and transparent governance.”

Selfies with supporters, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014 all rights reserved.

Selfies with supporters, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Peter’s work is set to continue and is being updated continually on the internet, as he explained: “Right now we are focusing on documenting campaign events in the run up to the General Election in May. My own vision is to not only tell the story that is front and centre but to try and capture moments behind the scenes. I hope this will make for a more complete and hopefully interesting look at this one section of Scottish politics. Currently it’s been so busy with the General Election campaign that we haven’t really had time to discuss how the project might progress. There have been informal discussion about documenting more in depth on a day-to-day basis and even setting up a dedicated team to deal with editing and archiving. As it’s an SNP project I am funded by them but the parliament have their own photographers so there may be a need to work more closely with them in the future.”

 Nicola's husband Peter Murrell proudly looks on as Nicola thanks friends and family at a reception in Bute House. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014 all rights reserved.

Nicola’s husband Peter Murrell proudly looks on as Nicola thanks friends and family at a reception in Bute House. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

As Peter concludes: “We are also in the process of organising an archive on Flickr. There are lots of idea out there. I think after the General Election we will be able sit down and see how we would like to progress. There are also opportunities for exhibiting and publishing a photo book, something I am keen to work on. For now though, I’ll keep shooting and try to keep it interesting for people.”

The First Minister's portrait is added to the walls at the official residence at Bute House in Edinburgh.  Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014 all rights reserved.

The First Minister’s portrait is added to the walls at the official residence at Bute House in Edinburgh. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

If you are interested in keeping up with Peter’s work you can visit the official SNP photo archive on flickr and follow Peter’s work on Instagram or on his website.

 

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